By now you’ve probably seen the right-wing-funded study that says the children of gay parents fare far worse than the children of straight parents. And hopefully you’ve also seen that the study’s methodology was so sloppy that by its terms, Ted Haggard is a “gay dad.” But one thing I haven’t seen discussed is how the results of this study — even assuming it were accurate, which it’s not — should influence same-sex marriage rights litigation. The answer: It shouldn’t. I explain why in the Guardian. A taste:
This lazy and incredibly faulty study is already being used to argue against same-sex marriage rights for gay couples. The “gay parents are worse parents” argument shouldn’t just fail because it’s false; it should fail because even if it were true, less-than-ideal child outcomes do not justify the state’s refusal to extend the fundamental right of marriage to consenting adults.
The United States supreme court has addressed these issues before. The court has held time and again that the right to marry is of fundamental importance. Restrictions on marriage must be critically examined to see what state interests those restrictions forward, and the restrictions must be carefully tailored to further those state interests. In Loving v Virginia, the famous case on interracial marriage, the supreme court held that:
“The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”
When the state of Missouri barred the rights of prisoners to marry without the prison superintendent’s permission, the court struck down the law as unconstitutional. And when Wisconsin made it more difficult for “deadbeat dads” to get married – passing a law that required any man with unpaid child support to get a court order allowing him to enter into a new marriage – the court also struck it down, holding that the state’s justifications for the law did not outweigh the fundamental right of marriage.
It’s probably safe to say that the children of fathers who refuse to pay child support fare less well than the children of involved fathers who do financially support all of their children; children of fathers who refuse to pay child support probably also do less well than children raised in households where their biological parents are married to each other. Deadbeat dads, though, retain the fundamental right to marry. And I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that children of convicts generally fare worse than children raised in two-parent families where no one goes to jail – but convicts too can marry, even while they’re incarcerated. Similarly, children raised in low-income households tend to do less well in school and have poorer health outcomes than wealthier children. But it would be outrageous to use that data to conclude that the state has an interest in preventing poor people from getting married.
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